Alex's Tech Thoughts

LinkedIn, Please Fix Yourself

I feel like every time I log onto LinkedIn things regress in terms of usability and capabilities. I’ve considered going for the premium version, but I don’t think anything I want to do on LinkedIn would need a premium account.

LinkedIn is different things for different people. Recruiters (and job seekers) are the big cash cow for LinkedIn. But business professionals also (try to) use LinkedIn as a contact book, and this has become almost unusable.

I use LinkedIn for two things:

1) Dig through my personal contacts

2) Look for people I want to get connected with

I have some hacks that work for the latter. But the former is a complete, utter mess. The old contacts view was better than what we have right now. I hate that it is very difficult to pull all my contacts in SF before going on a business trip there (figuratively, no planned trip right now).

So, LinkedIn, either fix contacts (happy to give feedback on how to do this) or someone please use LinkedIn’s API to build a better contact manager for LinkedIn.

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Linkedin Rant fix it
Three Ways LinkedIn Can Get Better

I use LinkedIn every day. I think it is a good tool, but has potential to be great. Here are three ways LinkedIn can get a little bit better and on its way to “great.”

1) Who Should You Know

LinkedIn has so much data about you, professionally. They should use that data to tell people who they should know. There is a reason why there is a famous saying: “It’s not what you know, but who you know?” If LinkedIn could tell you (or make suggestions about) who you should know it would be a very valuable offering.

2) Business Trips

When I take a business trip, I usually dive into my connections on LinkedIn and filter through the city where I am traveling. It takes some time and is very laborious. It would be great if LinkedIn had a “smart” business trip offering. I enter the city I am going to and the nature of the trip (partnerships, raising money, meetings, etc.) Then it recommends who I should reconnect with or meet by using my contacts. How hard can this be? They should put something together and slap a beta on it.

3) Online to Offline Networking

LinkedIn has a unique opportunity to take digital networking (and staying in touch with business associates) and take it offline. There can be major monetization opportunities as well. I think if they have the cash they should try to buy Meetup or build a competitor to go after monthly, quarterly, and yearly professional events. This is one thing Hashable did well at the beginning. The people you met by going to a Hashable event were pretty amazing and made up for months of networking.

How else would you improve LinkedIn?

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Linkedin How To Improve
The Free Economy

Google, Gmail, Google Calendar, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Tumblr, and many more of your favorite companies and tools are free. They are supported, primarily, by advertising. They don’t sell you a product, you are the product.

This has led me to think that if people are okay with being the product for some of the biggest internet companies, why haven’t we seen this offline and in other parts of our lives. Food, home-owners/renters, entertainment, travel, clothing, and more. Why can’t some of it be offset by advertisers?

Why don’t real estate companies and agents work with advertisers to offer an offset on apartment cost by putting a few banners outside your apartment? I would gladly accept a few hundred dollars off my rent due each month to hang a banner for Pepsi outside my NY apartment.

Maybe companies have tried this. Maybe not. I don’t think it is a terrible idea. I’ve heard worse. I think the only question we really have at the end of the day is that if this were to become rampant, is this the type of world you really want to live in?

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Free Economy Google Facebook Linkedin Twitter Tumblr Advertising
Digital Tools I Use Everyday

I’ve been thinking about tools I use everyday and wondered how they stacked up to others.

Here is what I use:

1) Twitter (news)

2) Facebook (distribution of my blog and keeping up with friends)

3) LinkedIn (getting updates on who moved jobs, looking up people, connecting with others)

4) Google+ and Skype (google hangouts with Dwolla team for daily meeting and skype for other calls)

5) Google Docs (I rarely use Microsoft Word or Excel- only if I’m in a spot with no internet)

6) Tumblr (post my blog on Tumblr)

7) Gmail and Gchat (to email and chat)

8) Instagram (when I take photos)

9) Foursquare (using Explore to find places around me or to let friends know where I am)

10) Citibank and American Express (check on my finances)

11) Reddit and Hacker News (I’m mostly a lurker, but peruse both each day)

12) Dwolla (I work there and I pay people back with Dwolla)

13) Eventbrite (I typically have an event going on, so I check Eventbrite frequently)

14) Verizon, Time Warner, Con Edison (check my bills almost daily)

15) Games: Angry Birds, Derby Jackpot (Angry Birds played typically in the subway if no internet)

16) Spotify (I listen at my desk and with mobile app- easily worth the $10 a month)

17) Brewster (I have found it to be a much better address book)

18) Dropbox (sharing files and such)

I’m sure I am missing a few, but that is a good high level overview.

What am I missing? What do you use that is awesome and you can’t live without?

Leave it in the comments below.

How I Use LinkedIn

A friend recently asked me some best practices on LinkedIn. While I’m no expert, I told him I’d write a post about how I use it.

1) To stay connected to business contacts.

Anytime I meet someone I connect with them on LinkedIn. I use Rapportive for gmail to send out the invitation to connect.

2) To distribute my blog post.

I use LinkedIn as one of my distribution points for my blog posts. 

3) To figure out which of my contacts knows someone I am looking to connect with.

If I want to talk to someone at company X, I search LinkedIn for the right person there and then see which mutual connections we have. I usually ask one of those people for an introduction.

4) To see who I know in different locations or industries.

I look at the contacts tab and see who is in the SF filter before I go there. Also if I’m looking for any connections in the fashion or education space. It just helps move the ball forward quicker on things like this.

5) To keep my profile up to date.

I use LinkedIn as my public facing business digital presence. 

It’s only a few things, but I would say I probably use LinkedIn every day and it definitely helps with the effectiveness of being successful at my job.

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Connect With Everyone You Meet

If you would have told me a year ago that I would be at a payments company, I probably would have laughed at you. You never really know where you’ll be, what opportunities might arise, in the next few years. Because of this idea, I connect with everyone I meet.

What I mean by this is, if there is no obvious and immediate opportunity to work with someone, I still follow up with every new connection and say it was great to meet them and we should stay in touch. I follow that with a Linkedin connection and Bam! we are connected.

About a year ago I connected with a guy who was at a consulting company. We met at a hackathon. Fast-forward to today and he is working for one of the big POS (point of sale) players and I’m at Dwolla. We are starting to work together and it would not be possible if we hadn’t connected a year ago.

These type of opportunities seem to be happening to me often because of this very idea. 

Lastly, I would also make sure you sign up for the email alert Job Change Notifier, it has done wonders for keeping tabs on industry folk.

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networking linkedin